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Christina Rossetti

Excerpts from Christina Rossetti's journal

1854.
Today I met the woman upon whom my brother has enamored himself. I can still picture her face quite clearly in my mind – she was not as pretty as Gabriel had said, but I can see why he chose her. Her red hair is really very nice, though her teeth I am afraid are less than. We said very little to each other. She seems not to speak much in the presence of Gabriel; perhaps that is because he speaks so much! I myself found it difficult to slip in a word, and he and I used to have such wonderful conversations. It is interesting how he spoke of her, despite the fact that she stood directly next to him. I, too, would have difficulty speaking after such treatment. His words were kindly, but they were oblivious. He spoke of her posing, and how he is encouraging her to write and draw as well. One would think her an artistic genius in disguise to hear him speak!

1856.
Thoughts of my brother's betrothed have not yet removed themselves from my head. He writes of her so often, even neglecting at times to ask about me, that I cannot help but think of it. I rarely see her; sometimes I suppose that Gabriel is keeping us apart purposefully. How odd they both are!

As a result of my ponderings, I wrote a poem today that followed suit. I have titled it, ‘In an Artist's Studio.' I do not think it would be right to send to Gabriel, although he often writes and asks for specimens of my work. Perhaps, if I did, it would open his eyes to the obsessive nature of his love for that woman. I see it hurts her; she does not deserve idolatry. And what should happen if his eye wanders after her youthfulness and beauty have faded?

1856, later in the year.
Lizzie has sent me some of her works; a poem entitled ‘Dead Love' and a few others. I must say, with all the Gabriel as spoken of her, there was a grain of truth within. We seem to have an understanding of each other, and of Gabriel – we both care so much about him, yet we remain in shadow.

1861.
I could not bring myself to write today. I received a letter from Gabriel; he has requested that I alter ‘A Peep at the Goblins.' I do not doubt he has consulted with his other friends; I suppose he has asked his Lizzie, too. Would it be unseemly of me to decline his suggestion? I hesitate to change even a comma of my work – yet Gabriel believes I should publish, and to publish is to sell what your merchants wish to buy.

I do wish to publish. Have I not worked for such a goal all my life? Shamed as I am to present my poems, good or bad, to the many merchants, I wish to be recognized in the caliber of Gabriel and his fellows. It is not enough to simply allow my work to circumnavigate their elite waters, as Lizzie allows hers to do so.

I am at a loss for emotion with Lizzie. Gabriel seems to regard her so highly, yet I cannot conceive such a relationship as being anything but false. My senses are drowned by their inexhaustible romancing; a romancing for which Gabriel seems mostly responsible. I tire to see her name replaced by symbols of birds, and to be mentioned so frequently in his letters! Still, I can see that Lizzie loves him. This much is clear. Having read some of her poetry, it is clear to me that her affection for him is much spurned by his attention to other women.

I suppose there is little I can do. It is best, perhaps, not to fret. God will do as He sees fit.

1866.
Gabriel wrote again today. Again he wishes me to exchange a title of one of my poems, again for the purposes of publication. While I, in some way, agree with him, I think it would be better to keep the poem as it is. He suggested ‘Grave-clothes and Cradle-clothes,' but I find that name particularly hideous!

He seems to have quite forgotten Lizzie now. Only but a few years have passed since her death, and yet I remember her vividly. He has taken up with Fanny now. What remains of her other than her memory are a few of her poems and drawings, which I maintain held great potential. Although I love my brother dearly and I commend him on his encouragement of her, I do not doubt that his actions brought about much sorrow on the part of Lizzie. It is a shame, to say the least. I will remember her fondly.

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These works are a fictional representation as interpreted by the author.
(c) 1999 by Issa Beatty